The Lafortune Family
as told by sons Bob and Roy
His father, Frank Xavier Lafortune travelled by covered wagon from the Coast to Beaver Lake, Alberta and crossed the river at Edmonton on a hand operated ferry before any bridges were built. They stopped at Legal, a French settlement near Edmonton and Frank Xavier went homesteading. They had four sons, Frank, Fred, Albert and Eddie, Mrs. Lafortune died in childbirth when a daughter, Betty, was born.
Frank Xavier left Edmonton to go goldmining in the Klondike gold rush. The two older boys were raised by Father Bouchard, and a Mrs. Hetu, who operated the Queens Hotel in Edmonton took Albert, Eddie and infant Betty.
Frank worked for various farmers around Legal and then went bartending at the hotel. There he met a waitress, Laura Rouleau, whose parents had come from Minneapolis, Minnesota, to homestead near Legal in 1903. They were married in 1917and remained there where Frank worked at different jobs. He acquired a large well drilling machine, but this didn't work out too well.
His father by this time was working in Lumberton, B.C. for the lumber mill, so in 1923 Frank came to Kimberley and got a job with the Company at the Top Mine. He started in the Rockhouse and worked on the buckets on the overhead tram line that conveyed the ore from the Top Mine to the storage bins at the C.P.R. terminal below the Mine portal. Freddie Caire was his supervisor.
They obtained a small house at the Top Mine where they lived for several years. One son, Albert was born in Legal and two sons, Eddie and Robert (Bob) were born in this little house, Mrs. Ethel Chambers was the mid-wife who assisted Dr. Hannington. A fourth son, Roy, was born in the new hospital on the Townsite.
Albert was only a little over seven years old when he was drowned in the water reservoir when he was trying to catch some pollywogs.
There were very few vehicles in those days and people were used to walking where ever they had to go. Laura's memories of her years at the Top Mine was the long two and a half mile walk down town and back. She also remembers the friendliness of the neighbors and the community being like one big family.
Two of Laura's sisters, Delia and Marie Rouleau came to live with them for awhile. Delia got work in,the Cookhouse and they both met and married men that were working there. Her brother, Albert, also found employment and remained there.
Frank's brother, Eddie came to Kimberley in 1924 and worked at the Steamwinder Mine. He was one of the original hockey palyers when Grennie Musser and a group of skaters formed Kimberley's first hockey team.
When the Company moved its Top Mine operations to the Tunnel, Frank worked at the Concentrator for a short time and went back to the Mine and worked on transportation. In 1942 he was made a Mucker boss. He worked on the timber gang for a time and then transferred to the tool room and bit shop until he retired in 1954. He continued to do some part-time work, cutting loading sticks for the Company, the loading sticks are long slender Jack Pine poles that are used to place sticks of dynamite in plugged ore raises.
Their son Eddie started work with the Company as an office boy at the Concentrator for Bill Leaman and then went to the Mine. He married Patsy Palm and they have one son Arnold. He moved to Vancouver where he tried working on a fishing boat and then to driving a taxi. He now works for the Vancouver School Board. Bob and Roy still live in Kimberley. Bob's first job was with the Company Dairy in Marysville when Dave Suttie was the manager.
He tried a few jobs in Edmonton and for awhile drove trucks for several different companies. He also tried working on a fish boat at the coast and then came back to Kimberley and worked for the Northern Construction Company at the back fill and open pit. He now works at the Concentrator for the Assay Department in the bucking room. He married Gwyneth (Gwen) Jenkins who was working at the Hudson Bay Store and they have two children, Robert and Shelley. Robert lives in Campbell River and works as a sales representative for Intertruck. Shelly is attending high school. Bob Sr. has been active in the Kimberley Rod and Gun Club for many years.
Roy started with the Company also as an office boy at the Concentrator and with the exception of three years in the oil fields at Redwater, has worked for the Company since. He has been a timberman and worked on transportation at the Mine and is now in the Operations department at the Concentrator. Roy married Rose Waddell who was a bookkeeper for Eddie Taylor in the B.C. Electric and Music Store. They have six children, Greg, Diane, Charles, Barrie, Janice and Murray. Greg is with the Mutual Life Assurance Company in Courtenay, B.C.; Diane married a minister of a church, Alex Campbell and they live at Grassy Lake, Alberta. Charles (Chuck) works with a survey crew at the Mine. Barrie works for McMillan Bloedell in Vancouver. Janice is attending Ewart College in Toronto and Murray works on construction. Roy was active on the school Board for seven years.
After moving from the Top Mine, Frank and Laura made their home on Ross Street, just below the Catholic Church. When Frank passed away in 1965,Laura continued to live there until she moved into the Pines Special Care Home on the Townsite. She enjoys visits from her friends and her two sons and their families that are still living in Kimberley. She has nine grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren.